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The Cloud drifts into Europe with Wi-Fi deals

Teams up with Boingo too

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Pub-based Wi-Fi provider The Cloud today said it has inked a number of roaming deals to allow the seamless movement of its users onto other providers' networks, and vice versa.

It also sketched out its plan to expand its network of hotspots beyond the UK's shores and onto continental Europe.

Chief among the third-party providers is US-based Boingo Wireless, which brings together Wi-Fi networks and hotspots around the world to offer roaming and centralised billing services. Boingo currently numbers T-Mobile, Earthlink and Fibrelink among its US networks, in addition to the hotspots it operates itself and other third party-branded sites.

Boingo was one of the first companies to begin rolling out hotspots, and is arguably one of the best-known Wi-Fi players in the US. It adds The Cloud's 2500 hotspots to its growing tally of international Wi-Fi access zones, while the UK service gets access to Boingo's US customer base, many of them international business travellers.

Alongside the Boingo tie-in, The Cloud said it had licensed Togewanet's WeRoam product, which allows mobile phone network operators to link Wi-Fi usage with their customers by using subscribers' phone SIM cards for network authentication and access. The upshot is that cellular telcos can offer Wi-Fi access as a freebie or add-on service, with access time billed directly to the subscriber's monthly bill.

The Cloud said it has signed up six unnamed operators in the US, Asia and Europe who will offer their subscribers Wi-Fi access via its network. It hopes to attract other operators in due course, tempting them with the ability to offer branded wireless Internet access without having to roll out hotspots of their own, as players like T-Mobile and Swisscom are doing.

This deal marks The Cloud's shift from direct Wi-Fi provider to network wholesaler. Underpinning that change of direction is another recently struck agreement, this time with Service Factory, which offers Wi-Fi service management tools. Using Service Factory's software, The Cloud will offer Virtual ISP packages to companies who want in on the wireless Net access game but again without having to roll-out their own networks.

The Cloud pointed to one of its customers, Square Mile, which will use the Virtual ISP package to extend its own UK marina hotspot network into Europe.

The Cloud also said it had signed a deal with an unnamed (again) European telco to provide it with the backbone infrastructure necessary to expand from the UK into continental Europe.

"These deals move us forward in a whole range of areas - we now have a backbone for European expansion, a number of major roaming deals with top level partners and some key technology partnerships with significant names," said The Cloud MD George Polk in a statement. "These deals will drive geographical and user growth significantly, whilst also opening up our network to a whole new range of potential partners via the Virtual ISP products."

Indeed, like The Cloud's recent tie-in with UK payphone operator NWP, the deals announced today will underpin the company's ongoing 'land-grab' strategy to grow its coverage. ®

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